Monday, May 07, 2007

Book Banning Justified in India

The AsiaMedia site has a depressing article from the May 6th Times of India. According to the piece, India's Supreme Court has just issued a decision that justifies the Indian government banning books:

"It is true that forfeiture of a newspaper or book or a document is a serious encroachment on the right of a citizen, but if forfeiture is called for in the public interest it must without a doubt have pre-eminence over any individual interest," a Bench of Justices B P Singh and H S Bedi observed while upholding the Karnataka government's decision to ban a vernacular novel.

The novel Dharmakaarana on 12th century saint Basaveshwara, also known as Basvanna, contained alleged derogatory references to the sage and was banned in 1995 by the state government following a public outcry.

It was banned by invoking section 95 of CrPC under which the government can ban any book or publication that contains objectionable matter that is intended to promote feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens.

Author P V Narayana and others challenged the ban in the Karnataka High Court, which upheld the government's decision. Following this, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

Elsewher in the article, the court's decision is explained in greater detail:

Rejecting the appeal, Justice Bedi said there could be no doubt that freedom of speech and expression is an important right and should be available to all.

At the same time, while exercising this right one should be careful not to hurt others' feelings. Advocating a compassionate approach towards the minorities, the apex court said: "The weaker section among the vast population must be shown extra care and consideration."

So, in India, essentially any book that offends members of a particular ethnic or religious group can be banned. It beggars belief how such a principle can be considered compatible with free expression.


Blogger ChrisLA said...

When Gandhi was fighting for Indian independence he made a "pact with the Devil" to gain support from the Indian Muslims, unaware that their own agenda was to set up a new Islamic caliphate in India. Ever since, the Muslim minority has used their leverage to stamp out "communalism" which is a euphemism for Hindu traditions. But there have been valiant efforts to ensure freedom of all religions -- and a library of good books on the topic is available at Voice of India, New Delhi. One interesting saga is the Calcutta Quran Petition, where petitioners tried in the 1980's to have the Quran banned and all copies confiscated under the Indian Penal Code because it "incites violence, disturbs public tranquility, promotes, on the ground of religion, feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and insults other religions or religious believes of other communities in India." While the petition was ultimately dismissed, the book regarding the trial became a best seller and is still available today. (Unless it, too, is eventually banned.)

12:51 PM  

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